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Hans Huber – the regional master

Exhibition and concerts at the Kleines Klingental Museum, Unterer Rheinweg 26, Kleinbasel, 8 February 8 – 31 August

By Shirley L. Kearney, German by Martin Pütter

Hans Huber (1852 -1921) was born in Solothurn, studied in Leipzig, recuperated from whatever ailment afflicted him at the time in Vitznau on Lake Lucerne, and died in Locarno, but Basel was his chosen home. He laid its foundation as a musical city. As choral and orchestra director he was omnipresent. As director of the music school (today the Musik-Academie) he promoted the professionalisation of music education. The school building on Leonhardstrasse exists thanks to his initiative. If you have attended a chamber performance in the Stadt Casino, most likely it was in the Hans-Huber Saal, known for its fine acoustics. His achievements are a reflection of Basel’s cultural life between 1890 and 1920 and his oeuvres include, inter alia, five operas, nine symphonies, several concertos for violin and piano, and 24 preludes and fugues for piano. Huber received an invitation to teach in Chicago, which he declined in favour of being a private teacher in Alsace and ultimately in Basel. Here’ a nearly complete list of Huber’s works.

After visiting the acclaimed Arnold Böcklin exhibition in 1892, Huber composed his Symphony No. 2 Böcklin Symphony, recounting the visions of this internationally renowned artist, born in Basel in 1827, who died near Florence in 1901. In 2012, during the celebration of the European heritage days, Basel’s Symphony Orchestra celebrated this magnum opus in the First Church of Christ Church at Picassoplatz. Now Huber is back home for the enjoyment of a larger audience.

During his lifetime Huber was regarded as a regional master, and he was so loved by the populace that postcards were printed with his image. Now his importance to Basel and music in general is being honoured through the exhibition focusing on his multifaceted life through his numerous musical scores, documentation, recordings, photos and pictures. To paraphrase Daniel Schneller of the department for the protection of heritage (Denkmalpflege): we want to keep Hans Huber’s memory alive and offer a taste of musical history, but basically our goal is to present good music.

The next concert will be held on Friday, March, 21 at 7.30 pm. Together with the Basel String Quartet and the Dutch pianist Jan Schultsz


Kleines Klingental Museum excerpted from the publication Basel: A Cultural Experience, Shirley L. Kearney, Spalentor Verlag 2005

Gothic-period convent built in 1274; numerous alterations over the centuries. The former convent is considered the most illustrious and richest of the ten which existed in Basel during the late Middle Ages. Founded in 1274 by the Dominican nuns, who several decades previously established a religious community in Alsace. From Alsace they moved to the Black Forest, eventually settling in Basel. The name Klingental originates with its patron, the knight and minnesinger (Minne / love) Walter von Klingen, a friend of King Rudolph von Habsburg, who offered the nuns land in the Black Forest. His family remained closely attached to this religious community even in death, as members of the Klingen family are buried in the convent’s cemetery. The original building of the convent was laid out along the existing city wall in Kleinbasel and parallel to the Rhine. All rooms necessary for community life: chapels, chapter rooms, dormitory, dining rooms and kitchen were built. This representation of a medieval convent is today largely intact, albeit with later structural modifications. On the ground floor, a dining room with late- Gothic ceiling leads to the convent’s kitchen with its vast chimney flue; on the upper floor, a small wooden-panelled dining room, two nuns’ cells and an anteroom with wall paintings are all accessible to the public. The dining halls are available for rent.

Shortly after the original building was completed, construction of a cloister church began next to the city wall. For centuries the roof with its coloured and glazed tiles and 28-meter high bell tower gave a lasting and impressive image to Kleinbasel. The church still stands. Since the 17th century its interior has been completely altered (stories added for military dormitories) and its use multifarious. Today it houses artists’ ateliers. The completion of the church did not stop future building projects for the convent. Next to the church, where the Kaserne now stands, the nuns built a cloister, with frescoes of the Dance of Death, and other stately buildings. These buildings around the cloister, the Grosses Klingental, differentiate them from the original building, the Kleines Klingental. Following the completion of this construction phase, the nuns offered the original building for use by members of the convent’s laity. The Kaserne was built in 1860 for military purposes (a garrison) by the architect Jakob Stehlin the Younger (1826-1894). It now serves as a school and a venue for leisure activities. The Klingental convent (as were all the monasteries and convents in Basel) was closed following the Reformation of 1529.The Basel authorities advised all religious orders to leave their monasteries. A large number of the nuns and monks did so and married, while some ignored the council and moved into still standing monasteries. Some nuns at the Klingental Convent did not wish to depart. The last abbess,Walpurga von Runs, held on inside the convent until her death in 1557. Since 1939 the original building—the so-called Kleines Klingental—has been a museum.

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